I recently attended the two meetings on the proposed reconfiguration of Harbor Drive and Herondo. What were sold as meetings for public input, became a showcase for what is wrong with our City processes and staff’s attitude toward public input and spending money.
The main topics of the meetings were the reconfiguration/improvement of the Harbor Drive bike path and this sudden city love affair with traffic circles, or more properly, “roundabouts.” While there were many public comments at the first meeting, there were two common themes that rose to the top by the majority of the public participating. One was that the bike path should go down both sides of Harbor Drive. And second was a concern about a two way bikepath crossing all the driveways along the west side of Harbor Boulevard. There were also a variety of ideas on where roundabouts might work. The consultant thanked us for our input and said they would digest it, nothing was in concrete, and they would come back for a second public input meeting.
Before the second meeting, the City Council had a “consent calendar” item with a grant application for a roundabout at Herondo/Harbor intersection disguised as “the bicycle transportation plan implementation project.” If you follow city processes, a “consent calendar” item, is an item that is approved without discussion. The staff report that went with the item contained only a summary description of the three items—a road diet on Prospect, a road diet on Catalina, and the roundabout. No diagrams, no traffic analysis, no justification.
This is bad from two perspectives. First, the city was still supposedly receiving public input on the Harbor Drive modifications. Second, they tried to hide three major street changes under the guise of a bicycle plan without proper public notification and debate. What this shows is City staff’s total disregard for meaningful public input and dialog. They were ramrodding this through and trying to disguise it from the public.
When we went to the second meeting on the Harbor Drive reconfiguration, we were presented the exact same solution that the consultant had briefed in the first meeting. Other than some lipstick, there was no incorporation of the public concerns and input from the prior meeting. What was worse, the consultant stifled public input and made statements about their proposed solutions that were inaccurate. For example, the consultant said a roundabout will always outperform a signalized intersection. After consulting the ITE Highway Capacity manual, I verified that this statement is not correct. Then I asked about the traffic analysis (for the second meeting in a row now). He did not have it with him…how convenient. Then I asked the source of the pedestrian, vehicular and bike traffic data. He said there was no one study, they had to cobble it together. That is a red flag. And indicates the project was rushed and improperly performed.
When I pointed out that the most prevalent accident in traffic circles is bike/car accidents. He threw back that there has only been one death. What about broken bones, concussions, lacerations, torn ligaments? No response. This guy was dead set on a traffic circle no matter what.
I asked if they had derived their solution based on the upcoming CenterCal development at the south end of Harbor Drive. No.
Had they asked for input from CenterCal? No.
Had they projected any increase in vehicular, bicycle traffic, and pedestrian traffic based on the CenterCal project at the South end of the harbor? No.
Staff is spending our tax dollars on a study that does not consider two impending harbor changes that could totally negate the design being finalized now. In a few months we will have CenterCal’s first cut at what will where in the harbor. In our public discussions on that development, the bike path has been a major topic. Traffic circulation at the south end of the harbor is a major area of focus for Center Cal. And, on March 5, we will know the out come of the Measure A vote on the AES property. Measure A zoning allows another 30 feet of right of way for bikepath expansion along Harbor Blvd.
And finally, to add insult to injury, Councilman Tucker from Hermosa was justifiably upset that our City staff had not started consulting with their staff. But what was really telling was his strong push for real public input from the residents of Hermosa. The plan presented chokes Herondo down to one lane coming down to Harbor Drive which affects traffic circulation in Hermosa. Hermosa owns 20 percent of Herondo. Obviously, he felt the same way Redondo residents felt.
The consensus of the majority of the attendees was that the public input was really just a charade. The plan was obviously baked and done before the first public session. Otherwise, how could City staff have finished the grant application and had it on the City Council agenda between the two meetings?
Why the rush? Why not do this right? Why would we design a major street reconfiguration that could be made obsolete in a matter of months by harbor revitalization plans and the vote on Measure A? Why are wasting our limited taxpayer money on a consultant that is designing to today’s traffic and circulation? Why waste the time of the public, when the solution is already baked?
It is bad enough that our City staff supported the pretense of public input. It is bad enough that they tried to slip a fast one by the public on the City Council agenda. But to ignore the impending changes to the harbor area is just plain poor management and leadership. We are wasting money on a consultant now. And, we could spend millions on a street configuration that will be obsolete in just few short years. This is not the first time staff has charged ahead without due diligence. Look at the dry fountain at the PCH/Catalina triangle. $1.8 million of taxpayer funding wasted on a dry fountain.
Shame on our City management. This is so obvious, it is inexcusable. Our City seems to be out of control. Someone needs to show leadership and rein this in. How dare they try to circumvent public comment by using misleading titles on agenda items on the City Council’s consent calendar? They have shown a blatant disregard for any meaningful input of the public that pays their salaries and future retirement benefits. They have shown they cannot be trusted to be good stewards of our limited public funds. And they have shown either an unwillingness or an inability to integrate related activities and planning.
Who is at the helm? Where is the leadership? We deserve better.